10 August 2018

Liberia: Bong Citizens Urge Lawmakers and Vice President to Unite

Gbarnga — Some citizens of Bong County are worried that the split between caucus members and Vice President Jewel Howard -Taylor could affect the rest of the county.

Report by Selma Lomax, selma.lomaxAll six of the opposition lawmakers supported Dr. Henrique Tokpa in the senatorial by-election while Howard-Taylor lobbied local officials to support her former political officer, Rep. Marvin Cole (District 3, Coalition for Democratic Change).

During the weekend before the election, Howard-Taylor blamed the lawmakers for the mismanagement of the Bong Technical College and the Gbarnga Street pavement projects.

She said Tokpa was too old to become senator of Bong County. She said Tokpa was only interested in the senate because he wants to save money for retirement.

"When your elect Dr. Tokpa, he will not do well for the people of Bong County because he is too old," Howard -Taylor said. " Cuttington retired him because he was too old; how can Bong County elect him as senator?"

The six lawmakers headed by Deputy Speaker Prince Moye grouped themselves under the banner "Majority Bloc" of the caucus to endorse Dr. Henrique Tokpa as the next senior senator of Bong County.

Of the 60, 463 votes in the July 31 by-election, Tokpa received 27, 806 compared to Cole's 20, 982.

The other lawmakers who supported Tokpa include: Rep. Moima Briggs Mensah, (district six, independent candidate); Rep. Robert Flomo Womba, (district four, Unity Party) Rep. William Papa Kolleh, (district seven, All Liberia People's Party); and Rep. Albert Junior Hills (district one, All Liberia's People's Party).

The vice president accused the six lawmakers of being corrupt and said "if Tokpa wins, he will be corrupt just like them".

"You see the other six lawmakers of the county have grouped on one side to support Dr. Tokpa," she said while campaigning for Cole in David Dean's Town in Kokoya on July 28, 2018. "When you elect Dr. Tokpa he will be corrupt like the other six lawmakers."

'Put aside Differences'

Now that elections are over, citizens of the county are calling on lawmakers including Rep. Cole to put aside their difference, so they can work in the interest of the county.

Jesse Barchue Cole, head of the Justice and Peace Commission in Bong County, said the lawmakers should focus on the development agenda for the county such as completing the college and the road improvement project.

A divided Bong County, Jesse Cole said, would slow development.

"Bong County has been blessed to have the Deputy Speaker and the Vice President," he said. "Though she's not a member of the caucus but she should play that role to instill peace in the caucus."

Aaron Juakollie, program officer of the Foundation for International Dignity, shares Cole's sentiments about peace and focusing on the county's development agenda.

"It is not about who won or lost," he said. "Bong County is our common denominator and we as citizens must lead the process of reconciling our leaders rather then preaching a message that will divide our leaders," he said.

Both Tokpa and Rep. Cole have said they want to reconcile the county because the election is over.

Cole called on his supporters to remain calm and embrace Tokpa as their next senator. "The citizens have spoken. We will live with the results to move our county forward."

Tokpa said he is focusing on the county's development agenda, reconciliation and uniting the caucus.

"For those who know me I am not a divisive person," Tokpa said. " I will work with Rep. Marvin Cole and work with the Vice President, regardless of all the negative things she said about me. I strongly believe us as leaders should put those petit things aside and work as one."

Rep. Moye said he and the other lawmakers supported Tokpa because he is an agent of reconciliation.

"I will never be against any form of divisive politics," he said. "I love to see leaders of the county united."


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